Left: Dave Parr (R) Co. Commissioner District 1, Charlie Brown (R) Co. Commissioner District 2, Jeff Stewart (R) Co. Commissioner District 2, Bill Morthland (R) Co. Commissioner District 1, Ken Eitel (R) State Representative District 44, Andy Thomas (R) State Representative District 44, Warren Stevenson (R) Co. Council Member-at-Large, Terry Harrison (R) Co. Commissioner District 2, Tabatha Perkins (R) Co. Commissioner District 1, Brian Deakins (R) Co. Commissioner District 1, Buddy Knox (R) Co. Commissioner District 2, Mike McCullough (D) Co. Council Member-at-Large, Mark Dierdorf (D) Co. Council Member-at-Large.
Eleven county government candidates were allowed to give their take on voters' issues in a forum Thursday night.
Out of 12, only one, Democratic County Council At-Large candidate Guy Dickerson, did not show up. County Commissioner candidates David Parr (D), Charlie Brown (D), Jeff Stewart (R), Bill Morthland (R), Terry Harrison (R), Tabatha Perkins (R), Brian Deakins (R), and Buddy Knox (R), along with County Council candidates Warren Stevenson (R,), Mike McCullough (D), and Mark Dierdorf (D) attended.
Only one Commissioner candidate from each party in each district will be elected in the primary. Three County Council at-large members will be elected in the fall.
The candidates were allowed two minutes for opening statements by Moderator Frank Phillips. They were then given two minutes each to answer questions from the audience.
The first issue to come up was the proposed property tax raise for the county-wide library system. A majority of the candidates were for the system, but did not want to raise taxes to attain it.
Candidates Dierdorf, McCullough, and Stevenson all said that they wanted a system, but wanted an alternate way to pay it.
"Unfortunately, it's not up to the Council to decide," Dierdorf said.
Perkins said that while she supported the measure and a tax increase would probably not be that substantial, it was ultimately not right for the government to decide.
"It's up to people to decide if they want that tax increase," she said. "Put it on that ballot and let them show what they want."
Deakins, along with the remainder of the candidates, said that he was for the library but against the tax.
"We deserve it," he said. "How it is funded is the issue here."
"I would do everything I could to find a source," Harrison said.
Time constraints only allowed one more question from the audience, this one concerning county zoning. Opinions were a bit varied on the issue.
Parr said that it would be "the best thing in the right hands and the worst thing in the wrong hands," but he was ultimately against it. Brown said that he was against it as well.
Stewart said that he was for the measure, with a catch.
"Zoning by itself won't work," he said. "You have to have planning... yes, I'd be for it with planning."
Knox said that necessity made him in favor of the measure.
"We're going to have to implement something for self-preservation in the future," he said.
McCullough had the same opinion, stating that he thought "in the next 10 years or less we'll need to go in that direction."
The candidates were then given two minutes to give final statements. Though a formal question was not asked, a few candidates voiced their opinion on the ambulance controversy of last year. In a meeting, the County Commissioners voted 2-1 to renew Athens Ambulance's contract, despite lack of a promise to provide paramedic-level care.
Deakins was the first to make comment.
"We all agree" the ambulance service decision "was a mistake that was made," he said.
Stewart said much the same thing.
"I don't strongly favor Athens or Transcare," he said. "I don't care what company brings us paramedic-level service, but I do know we need it."
Parr, who voted to bring Athens back in, made comment.
"We had two not-so-good contracts that we had to make a decision on," he said. "I think the other two commissioners would agree that this wouldn't be an issue if we had a few more bids."
Morthland verbalized his respect for his competitors and other candidates, thanking them for a calm, respectful forum.
"It's going to be a hard decision come Tuesday," he said. "This meeting gave me a good feeling. Those who I'm running against I could very well vote for."
Primary voting will take place Tuesday.